WEST CHESTER -- Payton Bradley was thankful for all the opportunities given to her over the years, demonstrating her humble personality off the court.
When the Downingtown West freshman walks through that gate, it's a different story. Just ask the numerous opponents she has beaten this season.
Bradley's aggressive play has catapulted her to the pinnacle of the Ches-Mont National Division as the she defeated West Chester Henderson's Emma Clark 6-2, 6-2 to claim her first title at W.C. Henderson Saturday in an all-freshman final.
"I'm really excited to accomplish one of my goals this year,' Bradley said. "I just had to keep my game up and play well to earn this.'
Bradley, the No. 1 seed in the bracket, surely earned the championship with a dominating performance on the Henderson courts over the past two games. She only dropped nine games throughout the five matches played in the tournament.
The Ches-Mont championships were a microcosm of Bradley's stellar freshman season, which she is unbeaten to this point.
"Payton has a tremendous amount of potential,' Henderson head coach Peter Sok said. "She's a very, very good player for her age. I hope the best for her after this stage.'
The National Division underwent a youth movement in the fall of 2013 and the freshmen No. 1's have not disappointed, as Clark proved with a runner-up finish in singles in addition to Bradley's win.
"It's been such a successful season so far,' Clark said. "This year has really been fun. I just want to do my best and see how it goes.'
Clark, the tournament's No. 2 seed, kept using adjustments made throughout the year to get better. The results paid off in her freshman season, resulting in an automatic berth to the District 1 Championships with Bradley.
She admitted to not feeling too much pressure in her match with Bradley, but knew the task of defeating her would be tough.
"Payton's a great player and really doesn't have a weakness in her shot,' Clark said. "I just had to be positive and fight through it. I tried moving her around and playing a more aggressive shot toward the end of the match. It was still a lot of fun facing her.'
Clark defeated West Chester East's Ashley Nguyen 6-1, 6-4 to advance to the final. Her Henderson teammate, Annelise Couderc, ended the day as the most excited player on the court.
The junior culminated her Cinderella run through the tournament with a third place finish and earning the final district spot from the National Division.
"This feels so amazing right now,' Couderc said after clinching the berth. "I'm so grateful to have this opportunity after coming in not favored to make it this far. I had no expectations going into this so i could play as hard as I wanted.'
Couderc used that philosophy in her semifinal match against Bradley. She tried a lob shot in the early going, which allowed her to take a 2-1 lead over the champion in the first set.
Bradley soon adjusted to Couderc's game and halted her run to the final, defeating her 6-2, 6-1.
"I'm not good with change of pace immediately,' Bradley said. "I just needed to counter with drop shots and have a higher percentage on my serves, which I have worked on over the last few months. It helped control my slow start and I was able to put her away.'
Couderc won the third place match over Nguyen 6-3, 6-1. Nguyen took fourth in the tournament.
This day belonged to Bradley, who catapulted herself into a class of Ches-Mont National Davision champions and became one of a few freshmen to accomplish the feat.
"It's hard to believe that one player can inspire a coach and a team,' Downingtown East head coach Lee Morris said. "Our coaches just try to do the best we can in the short time we have her. My goal is to make her better.'
"She's a self-starter and motivator,' West assistant coach Bob Mccune said. "Her work ethic is unbelievable. If we had 27 Payton's on a roster, you might see our name in the paper a bit.'
Bradley knows there is more work to be done before the season is over. She expects to make a run at districts and earn her ultimate goal of clinching a state playoff berth, but had to show thanks for everyone that helped her get to this point.
"My coaches (Lee and Bob), Penn Oaks C.C., Joel Irwin, my parents and my sister have supported me all these years,' Bradley said. "I'm so thankful to have them by my side through all this.'
Ches-Mont National Division Singles Championships
At W.C. Henderson High School
(1) Bradley (DW) def. (13) Couderc (WCH) 6-2, 6-1.
(2) Clark (WCH) def. (4) Nguyen (WCE) 6-1, 6-4.
Couderc def. Nguyen 6-3, 6-1.
Bradley def. Clark 6-2, 6-2.